Washington-based Sikh Human Development Foundation (SHDF) has given scholarships totaling over $200,000 (Rs 1.22 crore) to 508 needy students pursuing higher education in 159 institutions in Punjab and other states in north India.
The scholarships this year covered several fields such as medicine, engineering, agriculture, nursing, information technology and business administration, according to a media release.
"Many recipients of scholarships are from very poor households," said Gajinder Singh Ahuja, secretary general of SHDF, noting that the majority of these scholarships went to students from household income of less than a dollar a day per person.
"There is increased emphasis on female education in the SHDF programme. While 74% of the scholarships went to female students, 54% scholarships recipients were from rural areas," he said.
The SHDF has granted 2,880 scholarships since 2001. A total of 809 students have graduated and most of them have landed in respectable positions in various companies throughout India.
Foundation chairman Amar Jit Singh Sodhi said with the addition of a centre in Moga, SHDF currently has six centres in Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Faridkot, Moga and Delhi, where students appear for an exam and interview for the scholarship.
The SHDF scholarship programme is managed in India by its partner institution, Delhi-based Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council.
Rajwant Singh, SHDF's outreach director, said, "This is the largest single grant money given by the diaspora community to needy but bright students who have the keen desire to rise and lift their families out of poverty."
SHDF is largely supported by donors from the Washington metro area and by many successful entrepreneurs in the US.